• 8 October 2012
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Interaction Innovation Investments are the key

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Panel discussion: (L-R) Thomas Watkins, former president and CEO, Human Genome Sciences; Kiran Mazumdar, chairman and managing director, Biocon; Alan Eisenberg, executive vice president, Emerging Companies and Business Development, BIO; Dr Murli, president, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE).
With 300 partnering events arranged over the course of two days, BIO India attracted the key stake-holders and leaders of the biotech and pharma industry in Mumbai on September 12-13, 2012.

The global industry organization Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) organized the third edition of its event in India in collaboration with its local partner, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE). Dr Murali, president, ABLE in his opening address duly pointed out that this year ABLE was also celebrating its 10th year of existence. Dr Murali added that, “Of the 1000 major spenders in biotech and pharma around the globe, 870 are already present in India. This goes to show that India has a bright future.”

Panel discussions encompassing current topics such as “Commercializing stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine” and “Strategies for success: India's global role in innovation” allowed participants to express their views on these trending topics as well as update themselves on the latest news in these areas.

BIO India succeeded in differentiating itself from other industry events on the basis of sheer volume of partnering sessions that were held. Over the course of the two days, not only were a select group of companies given the opportunity to make presentations to potential investors and stakeholders, but the over 300 one-on-one partnering sessions that were held, also allowed them to explore collaborations on a more detailed level. A few young entrepreneurs that BioSpectrum spoke to described the meetings as productive.

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Dr H Thomas Watkins, Human Genome Sciences in conversation with Dr PM Murali, ABLE
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Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman, Serum Institute of India, speaks to the audience during the Fireside Chat
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Alan Eisenberg, emerging companies and business development, BIO talking with Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon
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Ranjit Shahani, VC & MD, Novartis India & president of OPPI; Tapan Ray, director general, OPPI, engage in a chat
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Rajashri Mokashi, COO, Stemade Biotech, BN Manohar, MD & CEO, Stempeutics Research, Virender S Sangwan, associate director, L V Prasad Eye Institute, and Dr Chandra Viswanathan, head, regenerative medicines group, Reliance Life Sciences
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Dr Rashmi Barbhaiya, CEO & MD, Advinus Therapeutics, Dr Phil Kearney, director, external scientific affairs, Worldwide Licensing, Merck, Holly Vineyard, deputy assistant secretary for Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Dr Renu Swarup, DBT, Ministry of Science & Technology, GoI; MD, BIRAC, Dr Chaitanya Saxena, CEO, Shantani Proteome Analytics, Achin Gupta, director, strategic planning, Abbott

Talking about his own professional experience, Thomas Watkins, former president and CEO, Human Genome Sciences, in his keynote address said, “You have to learn to turn risks into opportunities through collaborations. This allows for competitive growth in the industry. Innovative measures such as value-based analytics to assess innovator drugs in development, to reduce losses are an emerging trend in the market today.”

One of the other keynote speakers for the event, Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon, reiterated the sentiment when she spoke at length about the changing paradigm in drug discovery research. She said that, “Drug innovation has the lowest return on investment, and longest commercialization time, as compared to other industries along with the highest failure rate. Today, risk benefits can be evaluated to validate the research and development in a research company. Big pharma is now turning to collaborations with smaller companies in order to mitigate risk in various forms such as shared innovation, partnering for emerging markets and sharing resources. India has a huge opportunity to be a part of this.”

One of the major highlights of the event was the fireside chat with the Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman, Serum Institute of India. The august gathering was held in rapt attention as Dr Poonawala described his journey of building Serum Institute of India into the giant that it is today, because of which one out of every two children is estimated to have received a vaccine made by the company.

To the naysayers of India's current prowess, Dr Poonawalla said, “The infrastructure and trained scientists available at low costs are some of India's biggest strengths. China is the only danger to the biopharma industry in India since the Chinese government offers a lot of subsidies and the integrity level is low in some quarters as well.”

To the young entrepreneurs in the biotech industry he advised, “The vaccines business is a very tough job and not for the faint hearted, but you can start small by targeting hospital tenders. You can then move on to build your reputation and infrastructure as you grow bigger.”

The sticky issue of compulsory licensing was discussed at length during the two-day event. Since BIO India attracted a fairly diverse crowd from India as well as abroad, it allowed for distinct opinions to be expressed at the forum. Some representatives opined that compulsory licensing of innovative products would send the wrong signal to multinational pharma majors and undermine their efforts to innovate in India. Dr Shaw of Biocon added, “Compulsory licensing is a very contentious issue. Price control is not the only solution to all problems, Bulk procurement can also be used to bring down the prices of drugs.”

There was a general consensus, when it came to the issue of need for clearer guidelines as to when compulsory licenses can be granted and to whom.

The biosimilar guidelines was hailed as a progressive step by the Indian government. Alan Eisenberg, executive vice president, Emerging Companies and Business Development, BIO mentioned, “The guidelines recognize the scientific and regulatory complexities presented by the development and manufacture of biologic medicines. However, India needs to recognize scientific differences between small molecule therapeutics and biologics.” BIO also asked for the inclusion of substantial non-patent data exclusivity in its policy and respect intellectual property and other legal rights.

Manasi Vaidya

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